Scholars test medieval recipes

Graduate students at Durham University in England were in for a real medieval treat when they participated in a cookery workshop using recipes from a recently discovered 12th century Durham Priory manuscript, considered to predate the earliest known examples by 150 years. The Latin manuscript was created in the 12th century at Durham Cathedral’s priory.

In addition to the cooking recipes, the manuscript includes items for medical ointments and cures. Dr Giles Gasper from Durham University’s Institute of Medieval and Early Modern Studies (IMEMS), said, “Some of the medical potions in this book seem to have stood the test of time, some emphatically haven’t! But we’re looking forward to finding out whether these newly-discovered recipes have done so and whether they also possess what you might call a certain Je Ne Sais Quoi – or Quidditas, to use the Latin."

Casper continued, “The recipes are for sauces to accompany mutton, chicken, duck, pork and beef. There’s even a seasonal version of the chicken recipe, charmingly called “hen in winter”. We believe this recipe is simply a seasonal variation, using ingredients available in the colder months and specifying “hen” rather than “chicken”, meaning it was an older bird as it would be by that time of year. The sauces typically feature parsley, sage, pepper, garlic, mustard and coriander which I suspect may give them a middle eastern, Lebanese feel when we recreate them. According to the text, one of the recipes comes from the Poitou region of what is now modern central western France. This proves international travellers to Durham brought recipes with them.”